India is the birthplace of eggplant. But seldom do we see Indian varieties. In fact, many people assume that eggplant, which is actually a fruit and not a vegetable, comes from the English who originally thought of eggplant as having an ornamental virtue rather than a culinary one.
Perhaps the bitterness of eggplant may have compounded these biases further, which is why cookbooks will tell you to use salt to draw the bitter acid out of the eggplant, which can be washed away after an hour of salting. But by the 18th century, eggplant had been developed that was less bitter.
Here are some of the many ways I enjoy eating eggplants. I like grilling on a BBQ, or griddling on a stovetop with a heavy, cast-iron black skillet that marks your steak or vegetable. I like broiling eggplants in an oven or baking in gratin pans or terrines, or just plain enjoying them right out of the frying pan which too often burns my lips due to my impatience. Eggplants give us a plethora of choices and tastes.
Still another example I recently discovered includes the unique spices from the Middle East that are used with eggplant such as preserved lemon, cardamom, garlic and pomegranate or date syrup. Eggplant Rollatini is more familiar to most of us like the one below— recipes follows.
Eggplant Rollatini With Quinoa Or Baby Spinach. 4 Servings
1 large eggplant, peeled with root removed, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup cooked quinoa or rinsed and chopped fresh spinach
2-3 cups marinara or red sauce 1 pound spaghetti
1. Dip the eggplant slices one by one in beaten egg, then coat each slice with homemade Italian bread crumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant on each side until golden brown but soft enough to roll. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Mix ricotta cheese with the mozzarella in a medium size bowl. Spread a thin layer of 1 tsp ricotta and mozzarella cheese onto each slice of eggplant. Add 2 tsp of cooked quinoa on top of each slice of eggplant. If you use spinach, rinse well then place in a paper towel and squeeze out the water before you sauté.
4. Next, roll each eggplant up as tight as possible without tearing, and place the roll in an oiled baking pan, seam side down. Bake the dish for 15-20 minutes until cheese has melted.
5. While the eggplant rolls are baking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti, and cook for 8-9 minutes, until tender, but al dente. Drain.
6. Spoon 1 tbsp marinara sauce on top of each baked eggplant roll. Use the remainder of the marinara with the spaghetti for each plate.